Hachijōjima 八丈島 (i.e. "Hachijō Island") is next to last in the string of islands of the Izu Archipelago which is administratively part of the Tōkyō Prefecture, but its isolation 290 km form the capital and its limited attractiveness makes it a very exotic location for mainstream Japanese people. It was fun to compare the reaction of the hostel owners during the pilgrimage where we met and gradually became friends last year, when we arrived together and checked in: a Japanese speaking French pilgrim from Paris was very unusual, but that was nothing compared to a Japanese pilgrim from Hachijōjima. This alone was a non-negligible factor in accepting his warm invitation to come and visit him.
There is nothing like ANA’s network map in its in-flight magazine to explain the location of HAC. This flight goes all the way to the bottom of the map: HAC that I circled in white is actually at the same latitude as Nagasaki which lies at the left end of the main archipelago, but the map has been turned slightly in order to fit best in a landscape format, and the Ryūkyū archipelago (Okinawa) which is actually much further south is in a box top left.
There are interesting islands in the inserts on the right of the map above, even though they do not have any Japanese civilian airport:
First, in a green box, the extension of the map due south of Tokyo, going all the way to the Ogasawara archipelago, listed by Unesco in its World Heritage List, some 23 hours away by a ferry sailing once every six days, with fares ranging from 400 to 1,000 EUR round trip. Medical evacuations are performed using a Shin Meiwa sea plane of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Forces (i.e. the Air Force) based in Nagoya.
Even further beyond lies Iwo Jima, in a red box, which entered History when it became in early 1945 the first all-time Japanese island conquered by the US forces. To this day, it remains closed to civilians, apart from on-site commemorations of this battle.
Last, in a purple box, the four South Kuril Islands, located north of Japan beyond Hokkaidō, seized by the Soviet Union in the final days of WWII, and a perennial stumbling block in the relationships between Japan and today’s Russia. The Russian recently proposed to give back two of them and end the matter for good, but the most nationalist fraction of the Japanese public opinion is opposed to any compromise in this matter.
That being said, going to Hachijōjima is easy: there are three daily flights which are not in high demand outside summer and the fares are moderate: not only ANA offers a flat "ANA Experience Japan” fare to the non-resident foreigners, but with enough advance planning, the base fare accessible to all is even less. What you see here are the fares for two one way tickets: our two return tickets cost us 223 EUR. It was non modifiable, non-refundable, but included a piece of checked luggage and free seat selection at booking time. Last not least, they can be booked on ANA’s user friendly website.
It is definitely against my policies to fly two consecutive unconnected flights, but the fare for CDG-HAC on a single PNR at our dates was outrageously expensive. With 3h5’ between the arrival of the CDG-HND flight and the departure of the HND-CDG, at a season when there is no winter storm anymore and no typhoon yet, it was a reasonable safe bet and we could survive a moderate delay of the incoming flight. And then, if we did miss the second flight, our program had enough flexibility to handle the situation. But nothing of the sort happened: the AF flight had been on time.
NH1895 - Economy - Tokyo → Hachijojima - Airbus A320You are here
Check-in and reaching the domestic terminal
So I checked us here for Hachijōjima. In all countries where I have traveled in the past ten years, all I needed to do at a check in counter had been to give my passport or ID, and my destination. Not here : the check in clerk asked if I had a reservation and please show it (and that, even though I spoke in Japanese). Good thing that I had printed it just in case.
After a lot of typing on her keyboard, she delivered our BPs. A window seat for me and an aisle seat for my wife : we’ll see if the bet on neutralizing the middle seat will be more favorable to us than on the preceding flight.
We did not waste a single minute of the ample time margin between both flights and do not need to rush, so the first step is in the toilets facing the check-in area. The passengers targeted by this pictogram on the right are not the foreigners, but the Japanese, because only they would use a Western toilet squatting like if it was a Japanese style toilet. It has now been decades since there have been Western toilets in Japan, and I wonder if this sign has still any relevance.
This water fountain works
The area of the terminal is spotlessly clean, yet this man in the center of the picture is looking for any piece of rubbish with a hand held vacuum cleaner, and it takes an eagle view to spot one.
There is no people mover between the international and domestic terminals, but shuttle bus and there is no mixing of competitors : there are airside buses operated by ANA (blue schedule) and JAL (red schedule) for their passengers only. I presume that the LCC passengers must go landside, where they can take the monorail of the train. Lunch time is a low traffic time slot and the buses run at 20 minutes interval only, vs. 10 minutes in rush hour.
The first step consists in going through a security check where the waiting time is nil. I had forgotten a small bottle of water in my daypack : it is detected of course and I expected that it be dumped but no. It was briefly put on a machine like this hooded one and politely given back, after I had politely apologized for forgetting about it. In hindsight, it did not surprise me, because I remember reading that Japan has deployed the machines making it possible to accept again liquids in hand luggage without quantity limitations.
Going down this escalator afterwards
… reaching this waiting room
The ANA shuttle bus operates a loop : International Terminal, South Domestic Terminal, North Domestic Terminal
We’ll board at the North Terminal, Gate 46, but the numbers only run from 51 to 61 (and also from 500 to 506, probably for bus transfers) ?
There is a makeshift correction on this sign below the screens, adding Gates 46-48 and extending the bus gates numbering 511. Can’t they update the screen’s display?
The bus arrives and the BPs are checked : this ANA bus is for ANA passengers only. What is unusual is that they provide an unexpected certificate which provides all the information of the BP but does not replace it: it is only a proof that we boarded the shuttle.
No doubt anyway : we are on the blue side, that of ANA
Safety in a Japanese public transport is a serious matter. Are you sure that a bus parked on a horizontal surface could not move ? What about the risk of an earthquake ? Better place scotches, just in case.
The shuttle bus is not crowded
Off we go for a small tour of the airport, and therefore some plane spotting
Spotting Part I
Air China A330-300
Tails alignment : Philippines Airlines, Lufthansa, China Eastern, China Southern, barely visible ANA, JAL and Air China
The China Eastern A330-300 in China Eastern is in Shanghai Disneyland Resort livery. Mao must be turning in his grave, or rather, Mao’s embalmed body must be turning in its mausoleum on Tian’anmen Square.
The bus leaves the terminal, which provides a better view of the planes at the gates Lufthansa 747-8
MU’s Disney special livery
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER
Skymark 737-800, in B League special livery
The AF 777-200ER AF which brought us here
Crossing a multilane highway
ANA 777-200ER in Star Wars livery
ANA A321 in front of a 737-800
PaXbus and PAXbus again
A long walk again in the North domestic terminal
Turning right at the end of the corridor of the above picture to Gates 46-48, and going down two successive escalators or flights of stairs.
No stress : the flight to HAC is confirmed and there is no gate change. Flight GA9356 is of course a code share: this is really Flight NH755 to Komatsu (KMQ)
One more BP self-scan
And surprise : we must take another shuttle bus
We are nearly alone : there is a single other passenger on board behind me. The seats in front are reserved to PRM, etc. etc.
A bus transfer again, and therefore plane spotting again
Spotting Part II
Air Do 767-300ER
Solaseed Air 737-800
Take-off of the Air China A330-300 Air China seen previously
Satellite : where are the passengers?
It’s a much shorter ride than the previous one, reaching a satellite terminal which is both wide and empty. The passenger ahead of us is the one who was in the bus with us, heading to Gate 46 too.
Looking right towards Gate 48, it’s completely empty since no flight is planned there on the FIDS, but there is nevertheless a staff checking that nothing goes wrong in this emptiness.
Getting closer to Gate 46, and to the windows too
A work table
It’s dead quiet at Gate 46
There is a shop selling the unescapable boxes of sweets to be offered to friends, relatives and colleagues (ours come to Paris, and are in our hand luggage, because I wouldn’t dare arrive empty-handed in the unlikely case our luggage didn’t make the connection).
Obtaining internet access by wifi is fastidious : I quickly give up because I have a Japanese SIM card with an unlimited data plan
We settle there. It took us no less than exactly one hour after checking in to reach this place, walking in corridors, waiting for buses and riding in them.
Spotting - Part III
Actually, my wife settles here with our hand luggage and I indulge in another activity (two words, thirteen letters, beginning with P) ANA 787-8
Solaseed Air 737-800
Skymark Airlines 737-800
It is going to park at Gate 47 to operate the flight to KMQ. The man on the left with what appeared to be a tablet puzzled me.
The 767 taxies in, guided by a man in the full daylight and also by a woman in orange safety vest, or maybe she stops the road traffic on the tarmac behind her.
Another little more
Take off of the Lufthansa 747-8
A narrow catch : the departure of the Air France 777-200ER which brought us here and flies back to CDG.
ANA 777-200ER in Hello 2020 livery
Air Canada 777-300ER
Arrival of the most important aircraft for us today
She is the A320 which will bring us to HAC
All with one heart, let’s go to 2020! (In case you didn’t follow the news, I remind you that Tokyo will welcome the 2020 Summer Olympics)
Boarding, the Japanese way
Passengers have arrived meanwhile in this oversized boarding area, but there won’t be enough to fill an A320
Boarding starts at STD-20’ (in CDG, this would be the time for closing the boarding!)
These twenty minutes include the boarding of a PRM
A ground staff takes the picture of a passenger hidden by the man looking at his cell phone
Boarding begins : the employee calls Group 1 (Diamond PAX). Nobody moves.
the employee calls Group 2 (J, Elite). Nobody moves.
The time for Group 3 comes, and now I move together with other passengers, without any rush, because Group 3 is for non-status window seats. My wife would have moved too, but the risk that she heads to the wrong gate is limited to say the least, and I convince her to wait for her turn, that of Group 4 since she has an aisle seat.
I’m not alone plane spotting
Plane door shot
A sweet is given upon entering the aircraft
Detailed review of an ANA A320
Arrival in a spotlessly clean cabin
I chose seats in the back of the aircraft to be well behind the wing for taking pictures, but there was ample choice
View on the galley and the last rows
The carpeting is clean
The space between the armrest is slightly less than what I usually measure in Europe
On the other hand, the seat pitch is slightly above average.
First and foremost, these are old-fashioned seats, no super thinned ones, with very comfortable thick cushioning. The window is slightly misaligned at my row, but this is no major problem for me
No headphones are provided : I do not know if these audio channels are operational
The neutralized center seat bet was won this time ; small wonder because the load ratio is below 50%
The safety card both sides
ANA’s interstellar fleet, and plane spotting, Part IV
ANA’s in-flight magazine contains the usual description of ANA’s fleet: long haul, with the Star Wars special liveries
… short-medium haul
And interstellar, lower right Which Western airline would indulge in this tongue-in-cheek humor in its corporate image bearing in-flight magazine?
Starflyer A320, in the elegant black livery of this Japanese LCC
Air Do 737-700
Alignment on the runway. The strange structure in the background are the ventilation facilities of the tunnel section of the Aqualine, the toll expressway crossing the bay of Tokyo. It is located halfway on an artificial island.
It’s very misty and the pictures won’t be great. The polders in the bottom of the bay of Tokyo
The Tokyo Gate bridge between two polders
Tokyo Disneyland is at the left edge of this picture showing one of the polders
The bridge part of the bridge tunnel Aqualine across the bay of Tokyo
The tollgates are on the Chiba 千葉 prefecture side
木更津 Air Base
Poor air-to-air shot of a JAL aircraft
Tateyama 館山, located nearly at the tip of the Bōsō peninsula 房総半島
Very misty overall view of the peninsula, and therefore last glimpse of Honshū, the largest Japanese island where Tōkyō is
Again a distribution of sweets : these are the two that my wife received. No drinks were offered, on the other hand.
The passenger are very quiet, and also very few in between
Arrival in Hachijōjima
This picture from the air show on the preceding AF flight is a healthy reminder of the local geography of Hachijōjima for those of my readers who may have gaps in their knowledge in this matter: two extinct volcanoes (whose underlying magma nevertheless provide a generous supply of geothermal power and hot springs – this is Japan!), connected by a flattish spread of land where most of the 7,500 inhabitants live. HAC’s Runway 08/26 is there too, roughly perpendicular to the axis of the volcanoes.
First glimpse of our destination
The sky is seriously overcast, but it is not raining
The coast at the foot of the south volcano ; we are landing Runway 26
Lower left, the wharf for the overnight ferry linking Hachijōjima with Tōkyō
The banks of the very short local river, reinforced with concrete against erosion, like nearly everywhere in Japan.
It’s a very sparse habitat by Japanese standards
A primary school, lower
The cemetery, less than a hundred meters from the threshold of Runway 26
The facilities of HAC’s fire station
The name of the airport for planes flying above it
I stretched vertically the picture above to make is
The plane rotates on herself at the end of the runway, because there is neither a taxiway nor a turnpad (thank you Shisdu !)
The plane taxies back to the terminal that we discover on the left
The terminal and the control tower
We have landed indeed in Hachijō-jima Airport 八丈島空港 whose name is displayed in Japanese only, which exemplifies the limited international aura of this island.
There is obviously a viewing platform
Arrival at the gate and complete stop of the aircraft. The "Safety belts on" sign is still lit, so nobody moves
The sign is switched off : nobody has moved yet
The passengers rise from their seats with no hurry
Why hurry here ?
Now is our turn
The plane with the south volcano as a backdrop. With three scheduled flights to/from HND per day, HAC is not the place to be for plane spotting.
The luggage delivery room is small of course
It is decorated with a marlin
And a sea turtle, similar to those which come to this island to lay their eggs
Arrival of our suitcase : there is a staff to place the suitcases right
Not only this signs welcomes us, but first and foremost my Japanese friend who does not hide his gratitude that we travelled all the way from Paris to come and visit him in his isolated island.
He will show us his island inside out ; we’ll have time to discover the terminal later, but he shows us this floral decoration on the ground landside.
These are freesias ; this has been done as part of the Freesia 2019 festival which ends Sunday.
This is the outside of the terminal, with a couple taxis
This is the end of this report which is a first on Flight Report ; I now offer you a first glimpse of this rather unknown island.
Bonus : Discovering Hachijōjima.
Bonus : Click here display hide
Hachijōjima has first been a place of exile, like other islands which are sufficiently remote to make sure that criminals, defeated warlords and political opponents cannot evade with their own means. This was the case for instance of Taiwan's Green Island whose prison I described in the bonus of this FR.
The most illustrious defeated warlords exiled in Hachijōjima has beenUkita Hideie 宇喜多 秀家 (1573 – 1655), young daimyō of present day Okayama 岡山, defeated in the decisive battle of Sekigahara 関ヶ原 (1600), and sent with two sons to Hachijōjima where he died of old age after surviving all his victors and his wife Gōhime that he never saw again, yet never stopped exchanging letters with.
The criminals have been those sentenced to hard labor who built this walls of heavy quasi-spherical stone assembled in honeycomb, hand carried from the shore located kilometer away. No work, no food : it was as simple as that.
After being an island of no return for several centuries, Hachijōjima had a brief golden age after WWII. In order to keep all precious resources in the country during reconstruction, the Japanese government made it quasi-impossible to obtain passports. With the Japanese economic miracle, Hachijōjima became in the mid 60s and attractive "sun destination" which was much closer than Okinawa, with a climate much milder than that of Tokyo thanks to the warm Kuroshio 黒潮 current which flows north off the Japanese islands.
Alas, the time came when the Japanese became authorized to travel abroad and also had the means to travel much further in Asia and the Pacific. Why vacation in this makeshift Hawaii, when you can at long last travel to the real Hawaii? The hotels which catered to this customer base faltered and eventually closed.
The grandest of all was the Royal Hotel built in 1963, which has been one of the largest in Japan. It was oversized and impossible to adapt to another purpose and eventually closed in 2006. Land is not scarce in Hachijōjima since the population is limited, and it remained untouched.
The vegetation has grown quickly in Hachijōjima's subtropical climate: it was not easy to reach the foot of this overwhelming Sleeping Beauty castle.
Even some rooms in the upper stories have been invaded by vegetation
This juku 塾 (private cram school) on the seaside has closed too
This abandoned building faces Hachijōkojima 八丈小島 (i.e. "Little Hachijō Island"), seen here from the road which goes up the tallest of the island's two volcanoes. It is uninhabited since its evacuation in 1969.
Is it the sunset of Japanese presence in Hachijōjima ?
I'll show you what the island lives off today in the bonus of the return HAC - HND flight, apart from the freesias whose festival lasts only two weeks.
Thanks for reading me !
Tokyo - HND
Hachijojima - HAC
The cabin had seats providing comfort which vanished too often elsewhere. The crew did their work which was minimal, but with utmost Japanese smiling perfection. Entertainment on board is limited to an in-flight magazine and to looking out to the view outside, since the seat selection was for free. Can two small sweets still be called catering ?
Flawless fluidity in HND, but a much too long time needed to reach the gate after checking in. The only problem was internet access about which I gave up and used my data plan instead.
Fluidity is expectedly perfect in a tiny airport like HAC. Traffic jams are unknown on this island and nobody lives very far from the centrally located airport whose parking lot is free, so the accessibility can be rated as optimum.
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